‘The Andy Griffith Show’: What Griffith Said to Don Knotts as He Was Dying

Don Knotts and Andy Griffith were both stars of The Andy Griffith Show — and real-life friends as well. After all they’d been through together, Griffith was there at Knotts’ deathbed. Here’s what Griffith had to say to Knotts — and a look at how Knotts kept people laughing right until the end.

Don Knotts near a chalkboard
Don Knotts | Gary Null/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Andy Griffith’s memories of the final day of Don Knotts’ life

According to CNN, Knotts died on February 24, 2006, at the age of 81. He died due to pulmonary and respiratory complications. On March 5, 2006, Griffith, Ron Howard, and Jim Nabors of The Andy Griffith Show, Joyce DeWitt of Three’s Company, and Knotts’ daughter, Karen went on Larry King Live to discuss Knotts. Griffith recalled he was with Knotts only a few hours before his death. What he said to Knotts revealed how close the two actors were.

“[A]t night at UCLA and I was with him until 6:00 or 6:30 I guess and he couldn’t respond but I did — I was able to tell him I loved him and I asked him to ‘Breathe, breathe, keep breathing Jess,’” Griffith said. “His name was Jesse and he never liked that name but he let me know it one time and I always called him Jess.” Griffith recalled Knotts made it clear he understood what was going on by moving his shoulder around. During the interview, King asked Griffith if members of Knotts’ close circle thought Knotts was going to die.

The Andy Griffith Theme

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“I’m afraid we did,” Griffith said. “We didn’t — I didn’t know it up until about that time. We were there and they were very nice to us at UCLA and we were down in the emergency room and we were near enough we heard the doctor tell Francie (ph), Don’s wife that his heart had stopped in the ambulance and they had brought him back. But, yes, we knew.”

Don Knotts’ daughter remembers his comedic final moments

In the same interview, Karen said Knotts’ final moments were emotional. “And we spoke to him and talked to him from our hearts and I said everything I ever wanted to tell him,” she recalled. However, Knotts’ final moments were not entirely somber.

Don Knotts dressed as an astronaut
Don Knotts | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

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Karen told Closer Weekly she had to leave her father’s bedside because he kept being funny up until the end and she didn’t want to laugh while her father was dying. She did not specify what exactly Knotts did that was so funny, however, she said being comedic was a natural part of her father’s disposition.

Karen eventually told a comedy director named Howard Storm that her father was being funny shortly before his death. Storm is known for his work on television sitcoms and the Jim Carey movie Once Bitten. Storm told Karen she should have stayed and laughed and she agreed. After all, comedians love making people laugh. While Knotts was trying to make people laugh, Griffith was letting his friend know he loved him.